HHS Announces Proposed Changes to Mandate
UPDATED Feb. 2 to further clarify the proposed changes.
Calling it an attempt to provide women with “preventative care” while “respecting the concerns of some religious organizations,” the US Department of Health and Human Services has issued its proposed changes to the mandate requiring nearly all employer-paid health insurance policies to include contraceptive drugs and devices, voluntary sterilization, and “morning after” abortifacient drugs.
The proposed revisions broaden the exemption for religious organizations and include ways for many non-profits and schools to avoid offering the drugs and procedures in their insurance policies.
They do not exempt or allow any accommodations to for-profit companies, or for non-profits that don’t “hold themselves out as religious organizations.”
All women with employer-paid insurance would still be offered temporary or permanent sterilization and “morning after” pills at no cost. However the insurers (including insurers providing plans for self-insured entities) would have to issue separate policies covering only those services, and absorb all costs for them.
It is unclear how the US government has the authority to require insurers to provide and pay for those or any services.
“Issuers generally would find that providing such contraceptive coverage is cost neutral because they would be they would be insuring the same set of individuals under both policies and would experience lower costs from improvements in women’s health and fewer childbirths,” says a fact sheet on the changes from The Center for Consumer Information & Insurance (CCIIO) recommended by the HHS.
“Today’s proposed rule does nothing to protect the religious liberty of millions of Americans” says Kyle Duncan at The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, the public interest law firm handling the Hobby Lobby suit against the HHS, and several other suits by private businesses. “The rights of family businesses like Hobby Lobby are still being violated. The Becket Fund continues to study what effect, if any, the Administration’s proposed rule has on the many lawsuits on behalf of non-profit religious organizations like Ave Maria University, Belmont Abbey College, Colorado Christian University, East Texas Baptist University, EWTN, Houston Baptist University, and Wheaton College.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of the pro-life political organization the Susan B. Anthony List, immediately issued a statement denouncing the changes. Because it is not a religious organization the SBA List would not qualify for an exemption under the proposed rules.
“Once again, President Obama’s so-called ‘compromise’ is unacceptable – religious and moral freedom is not up for negotiation,” she say. “There must be no religious ‘test’ by the government as to who, and what type of entities, are entitled to a conscience. We demand respect for non-religious entities such as the Susan B. Anthony List that recognize the taking of human life is the antithesis of health care.
“Government policy under our constitution, history and statutory law has recognized the right of citizens to be free from government compulsion of conscience on such fundamental matters. The only acceptable outcome is the complete repeal of the HHS mandate and the restoration of a thriving marketplace where Americans can choose health care coverage consistent with their beliefs.”
Photo by Marcin Jochimczyk, courtesy stock.xchng.
This week’s three-part story on the HHS mandate:
Part one: HHS Suits Will Define American Law
Part two: Does the HHS Mandate Harm Workers?
Part three: HHS Suits: Why Now?
Click here for our Religious Liberty resources page. Click here to see all our previous stories and guest posts on religious liberty issues.
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